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In China, global automakers seek clarity from a more ambitious regulator

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For foreign automakers, selling in China – the world’s biggest car market and front-runner by far in the adoption of electric vehicles – can yield great rewards. But the regulatory headaches can also be really painful.

A lack of transparency, insufficient lead time for new rules as well as unequal “access to policy and standards drafting processes” were key complaints about Chinese auto regulation listed in a European Union Chamber of Commerce report.

Though the survey-based report published in September did not cite specific examples, auto industry sources say it highlights bubbling frustration with China’s regulatory process as well as growing pains as automakers adapt to the country’s expanding regulatory clout – particularly in EVs.

In the past, cars that met EU and U.S. auto standards did not have too much difficulty satisfying Chinese regulatory bodies which had based their own regulations on Western equivalents.

But China is now coming to the forefront of EV regulation. That’s a natural consequence of its sheer market size – it accounted for roughly 40% of all electric vehicles sold worldwide in 2020 – as well as part of broad conscious efforts by Chinese authorities to start taking the lead in international standards across a range of industries.

VW’S SCRAMBLE

An expensive scramble by Volkswagen AG engineers last year to redesign a battery pack for its ID.4 electric SUV illustrates the tensions at play in China’s auto sector.

The battery pack had passed Volkswagen and German government tests for managing heat but it did not meet planned Chinese requirements aimed at making EVs highly unlikely to catch fire in the first five minutes after a crash, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.

No information from the Chinese government about when the new standards would be effective contributed to the problem, the sources said. But they added stubbornness from Volkswagen headquarters was also responsible as Wolfsburg failed to realise Chinese regulators were not amenable to hearing out the German automaker’s point of view as they had been in the past.

In addition to sending managers to China’s industry ministry and auto testing agency China Automotive Technology and Research Center (CATARC) to press for clarification on when the rule might be made effective, Volkswagen assembled a team of engineers who spent around six months working out fixes, said the sources.

In the end, the orginally planned lightweight aluminum battery pack was replaced by a heavier aluminum-steel pack with a different structural design. The mechanical design for the car’s chassis was also changed.

“Sometimes changing key components in an existing model is harder than making a new one and ID.4 is a good example of that,” said one source.

The sources declined to be identified discussing internal matters. Volkswagen said in a statement to Reuters that the ID.4 gained regulatory approval smoothly, that its regional teams get the necessary support to meet local legal requirements and it has zero tolerance for non-compliance.

SEEKING MORE TIME, CLARITY

Hans Georg Engel, head of research and development at Mercedes-Benz in China, told reporters last month one challenge for vehicle development and testing in China is that the time between when a new regulation is clearly known and when it goes into effect is “short”.

“We need to be faster here in China,” he said.

Chinese authorities could do more to make the regulatory process clearer and less liable to throwing up unwelcome surprises, other executives at foreign automakers say.

Complaints include that sometimes only Chinese automakers are invited to initial meetings on proposed new regulations while foreign automakers only get to attend later, according to senior officials at overseas carmakers. They were not authorised to speak on the matter and declined to be identified.

China’s industry ministry and CATARC did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.

GOING GLOBAL

Last year, Beijing outlined “China Standards 2035” – a still-evolving industrial strategy it had spent two years developing and one that seeks to make China a major voice, if not take the driver’s seat, when international standards are set.

Its plans for promoting better standards encompass a wide range of industries – from tech to packaging to biotech – as well as autos.

In line with those objectives, state-owned CATARC, which is backed by China’s industry ministry, is increasing its international reach.

In June, CATARC set up an office in Geneva, home to United Nations transportation regulators. It has also been working with Indonesia’s government on EV policies and holding routine talks with countries like Uzbekistan and Belarus. In September, it said in a post that some of China’s auto regulations have been adopted by markets like the European Union, Israel and Chile.

Increasing the global impact of China’s auto emission rules will also help with the exports of China-made engines, components and testing machines, Wu Xianfeng, an official at the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, told CATARC’s annual meeting in September.

To lessen the chance of regulatory surprises, foreign automakers are investing more in China research and development centres as this will give them a closer ear to the ground and more expertise on technical requirements that matter most to Chinese regulators.

Volkswagen is building a new research centre in the eastern Chinese city of Hefei where it is boosting EV production, and just last month Tesla Inc announced it had built a new R&D centre in Shanghai – its first outside the United States, while Daimler AG opened a new research centre in Beijing.

“This world is changing so fast as we go into software-driven and electric vehicles that all governments around the world are running very fast to regulate,” Hubertus Troska, Daimler’s China chief said at the opening.

“Given the importance of China…this is the intention of our company to make sure Chinese requirements will be never forgotten.”

 

(Reporting by Yilei Sun in Beijing and Brenda Goh in Shanghai; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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Canadian employers, facing labor shortage, accommodate the unvaccinated

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Canada’s tight labor market is forcing many companies to offer regular COVID-19 testing over vaccine mandates, while others are reversing previously announced inoculation requirements even as Omicron variant cases rise.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government adopted one of the strictest inoculation policies in the world for civil servants and has already put more than 1,000 workers on unpaid leave, with thousands more at risk.

Airlines, police forces, school boards and even Canada’s Big Five banks https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/canadas-major-banks-require-employees-entering-premises-be-vaccinated-2021-08-20 have also pledged strict mandatory vaccine policies. But following through has proven less straightforward, especially as employers grapple with staffing shortages and workers demand exemptions.

Job vacancies in Canada have doubled so far this year, official data shows, and vaccine mandates can make filling those jobs harder, potentially putting upward pressure on wages. That could fuel inflation https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/canadas-annual-inflation-rate-hits-47-oct-highest-since-feb-2003-2021-11-17, already running at a near two-decade high.

“It’s already difficult to find staff, let alone putting in a vaccine mandate. You’d cut out potentially another 20%” of potential workers, said Dan Kelly, chief executive of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

There are pitfalls to employing the unvaccinated. Companies run a higher risk of COVID-19 outbreaks and many vaccinated employees are uncomfortable working with those who have not had the jab, said industry groups and marketing experts.

At Luda Foods, a Montreal-based soup and sauce maker, president Robert Eiser said he has 14 open jobs, no vaccine mandate and no plans to restrict new hires to the vaccinated.

“I don’t know that I want to reduce the (labor) pool, which is already quite low,” said Eiser. “We need to attract people to meet the demand. If we don’t, our competitors will.”

Data released on Friday underpinned Canada’s tight labor market, with a hefty 153,700 jobs https://www.reuters.com/markets/us/canada-posts-hefty-job-gains-outlook-clouded-by-omicron-variant-2021-12-03 added in November. It also showed a growing mismatch between available workers and unfilled jobs. And job postings are far above pre-pandemic levels. (Graphic: Canada job postings surge above pre-pandemic level Canada job postings surge above pre-pandemic level, https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/CANADA2/klvyknzklvg/chart.png)

WALKING BACK

The province of Quebec backtracked on a vaccine mandates for healthcare workers last month, saying they could not afford to lose thousands of unvaccinated staff. Ontario, which was also eyeing a mandate, said it would not go ahead.

Toronto-Dominion Bank and Bank of Montreal have both softened their vaccine policy to allow regular testing for workers who missed their Oct. 31 inoculation deadline.

In Canada, 86% of adults are fully inoculated, though that drops under 80% among 18-40 year olds. At least 15 cases of the new Omicron https://www.reuters.com/markets/rates-bonds/canada-has-reported-total-11-cases-omicron-variant-health-official-2021-12-03 variant in Canada have been reported in the past week.

John Cappelli, vice president of onsite managed services in Canada for global recruitment firm Adecco, said half of his clients are mandating vaccines with the other half allowing regular testing for the unvaccinated.

But he expects the Omicron variant will prompt more workplaces to get strict on vaccination, even as they grapple with the tightest job market he’s seen in his 25-year career.

“We are now starting to see our first workplace (COVID-19) cases in five months,” he said.

The number of Canadian job postings on search website Indeed mentioning vaccine requirements has quadrupled since August. (Graphic: Canada job postings and vaccine mandates, https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/CANADA3/byvrjqrlmve/chart.png)

In the hard-hit manufacturing sector, where 77% of firms say their top concern is attracting and retaining workers, vaccine mandates are more rare.

Dennis Darby, CEO of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, said most of Canada’s factories have operated safely throughout the pandemic. While CME encourages vaccination, “some companies are still using rapid testing if somebody doesn’t want to get vaccinated,” he added.

But companies risk a hit to their reputation if they are overt in efforts to tap into the unvaccinated as a labor pool, said Wojtek Dabrowski, managing partner at Provident Communications.

“If you go out and say, ‘We are intentionally seeking to hire unvaccinated people,’ many customers are equating that with you being anti-science and anti-safety,” said Dabrowski.

 

(Reporting by Julie Gordon and Steve Scherer in Ottawa, additional reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and Nichola Saminather in Toronto; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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OLG confirms where in Ontario winning $8.8-million Lotto 6/49 ticket was sold – CTV News Toronto

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The OLG has revealed where in Ontario the winning ticket for Saturday’s $8.8 million Lotto 6/49 jackpot was purchased.

According to the OLG, the winning ticket was sold somewhere in Mississauga, but the exact location within the city can’t be publicly announced for security reasons. 

The second price in Saturday’s draw of $207,248.90 was sold in Lambton County.

A $1-million ticket was also sold in Niagara Region.

“It was a clean sweep for Ontario for this Lotto 6/49 draw in terms of the big prices,” OLG spokesperson Tony Bitonti told CTV News Toronto on Sunday.

Another three tickets purchased in Ontario won a $100,000 Encore prize. 

Those tickets were sold in Ottawa, Simcoe County, and Grey County, the OLG said.

The jackpot for the next Lotto 649 draw on Dec. 8 will be an estimated $5 million.

According to the OLG, Lotto 6/49 players in Ontario have won more than $13.5 billion in prices since 1982.

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High River Cargill beef processing plant workers vote 71 per cent in favour of new deal – CTV Edmonton

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Cargill workers approved a new contract with 71 per cent support, avoiding a strike or lockout.

After two days of voting, employees at the beef-processing plant in High River, Alta., embraced the new labour contract.

In a statement, the United Food and Commerical Workers (UFCW) Local 401, representing workers at the plant, said on Saturday that it was a “bittersweet victory.”

The site, employing about 2,000 people, experienced a COVID-19 outbreak last year that affected more than 900 people and forced Cargill to close the plant temporarily. Three deaths have been linked to the outbreak, including two workers and one family member.

Workers will receive $4,200 in retroactive pay, a $1,000 signing bonus, a 21 per cent wage increase over the life of the contract, and improved health benefits. The company also agreed to provisions to facilitate a new culture of health, safety, dignity, and respect in the workplace.

“Our employees in High River are important to Cargill’s work to nourish the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable way,” said Jarrod Gillig, Cargill North America’s business operations and supply chain president, in a statement to CTV News.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement that is comprehensive, fair, and reflective of their commitment to excellence at Cargill and the critical role they play in feeding families across Canada.”

STRIKE AVERTED

According to UFCW Local 401, the union and workers were ready for a potential strike, erecting tents in front of the plant, installing floodlights and propane heaters, levelling nearby fields to act as parking lots, and finalizing a picketing payroll system.

UFCW Local 401 president Thomas Hesse previously told CTV News that the deal was “fair” but would support workers on the picket line if they decided to reject the offer.

“Tomorrow, work will begin to enforce and apply the new provisions of the Cargill union contract,” Hesse said in a statement Saturday. “Local 401 congratulates and thanks Cargill union members and our Cargill Bargaining Committee.”

Hesse added that the past few months were trying for many employees at the plant.

MORE WORK TO DO

While the decision was not an easy one and a cause for celebration, UFCW Local 401 says there is further work.

The union says workers at the JBS Plant in Brooks, Alta., observed the Cargill proceedings as they head into bargaining for a new contract next year. Additionally, the UFCW Local 401 says it plans to continue pushing for meatpacking industry reforms and restructuring.

As prices for meat continue to soar at the grocery store, Hesse said more needs to be done to better support workers and ranchers.

“Workers have been ripped off. Ranchers have been ripped off. And we’ve all been ripped off at the supermarket counter,” he said. “Government failed to protect these workers, as well as failing to protect Alberta ranchers and consumers. Change must occur.”

With files from CTV News Calgary’s Michael Franklin

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